II - The High Priestess
Associated Astrology: The Moon, Cancer
Key words: Insight, Intuition, Mystery, Self-knowledge, Wisdom, Spirituality, Instinct, Secrecy, Void, Silence, Meditation, Subconscious, Dreamscape, Vision, Psychic realm
"The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth" - The Tao Te Ching
Welcome to the High Priestess card. She is a card shrouded in mystery. She is therefore notoriously difficult to explain using such rudimentary tools as language! In fact, she would prefer to impart her knowledge in the altogether more immediate style of intuition.
We are all familiar with our own internal voice of wisdom. This is especially true when having gamely ignored our inner sage, we come a cropper. Then we realise with sharp clarity how very informative hindsight is! The real kicker of hindsight is having suspected all along that something was amiss. This feeling is the domain of the High Priestess.
She asks us to recognise a natural wisdom we may have overlooked in order to come to use and trust it more regularly. To contemplate this card gives great insight and spending time reflecting upon it is highly recommended. As her language can be allegorical and symbolic, do not be surprised if your dreams and subconscious are the mode by which she communicates.
Well-aspected, the card suggests we are trusting our own internal knowing and so we should! Yet, she is a shape-shifter if ever there was one, so defining her is not necessarily easy. If you are learning to read tarot, and get a bit tongue-tied when she shows up, then take heart. Many a reader struggled before you and many will struggle after!
The message of the Priestess is the opposite of intellectual and she can show this in real terms. Learning her meaning is knowing her. Knowing her is realising how much we don't know about her. That is her unfathomable depth. Think of her as the nature of spirit and the spirit of nature.
True familiarity with this card comes with receptivity. She is an awe-inspiring card to connect with because she offers insight into our personal concept of eternity. Thus, she is associated with spiritual realms, psychic ability, sacred spaces and hidden knowledge. She is fascinating for some, frustrating for others and in the modern world, she is sorely neglected in favour of the material realms traditionally associated with the male principle.
The Priestess presides over the kind of knowledge that simply cannot be found in a library. If the Magician is her yang counterpart (namer and manifestation of things) then she is the ultimate yin. She is the endless backdrop to The Magician's actuality. She asks us, 'Are we being receptive to our own intuition? What does our gut instinct say? Is there something bothering us that we can't put our finger on? Do we know what we need to do, even if it defies logic or good sense?'. When she shows up, you can take it as a sign your intuition is on song.
If the Magician is the master of timing, the Priestess is the mistress of timelessness. As he deftly transforms dreams into reality, she consistently embodies the negative space that gives room to both. It is no wonder she is so strongly associated with the Moon, for no other planetary body can highlight the wonder or enormity of the night sky like she can.
The challenge of embracing the influence of this card is to put aside rational thinking. Our minds can all too easily overrule her perception with perfectly sensible explanations. Yet these voices are subtle manoeuvres from our ego to avoid the fear of the unknown.
Why? Well, because she is the very essence of the unknown, and humanity is both compelled and intimidated by her. The unknown is much much bigger than us! Don't be surprised if you feel this duality in full force when she is present in a reading. Mystery is by nature, not inclined to give an explanation.
Courage is required to let go of the need for explanations and conceive of the enormity this card represents.
It may be you feel the need to take action that seems surprising or unexpected to you or others. This can be difficult as you may try and justify your process to others, finding yourself saying things like 'I just know I have to'. The less you feel the need to explain, the more you have to gain from this card. Allow for unexpected or spontaneous instinct to guide you. If in doubt of how to deal with things, then retreat, remain passive and remember that silence is golden.
When words are required they will feel as though they are moving through you.
Like an archetypal Oracle of Delphi, she echoes the inscription on the ancient Greek temple 'Know Thyself'. In this way, she asks us to trust the inner journey. Often the best thing to do when confronted with a confusion around your intuition is to do nothing at all. The moment you allow her space within, you will give yourself room to suspend doubt, expectation or fear. Then without trying to find an answer, the answer finds you.
Once a decision is made, you will feel a settling in the base of your stomach. The balance of the body is often the easiest and most effective form of communion with this card. The body knows best - let it override the emotional and intellectual space when trying to keep things simple and aligned.
For me, the Magician and the High Priestess are two sides of the same coin. They are also quite brilliant at handling each other's flip sides. They are a perfect description of the yin yang concept within ancient Chinese philosophy. The Magician asks you to externalise it, the Priestess asks you to internalise it. The Magician recognises the seeds cannot grow without the dark womb of the soil. The Priestess holds the potentials of all actions. To read about both cards is a great way to understand their depth.
This card values the messages found in silence. So, suspend time constraints, remain receptive and wait on the will of heaven. When you hear her voiceless call, then dare to follow her without question, even if your mind is in rebellion.
Where is the thrill in life's adventure without the allure of discovering her hidden treasures? She is a key to untold secrets, and shows us the use of imagination as a valuable tool of insight. The High Priestess is the swirling magic that simply cannot be measured. To embrace her is to suspend disbelief and celebrate the vortex of all her delicious wonder.